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Committee Seeks Diverse Focus Groups


How college students, faculty and staff feel they are being treated by the campus community is key to their success, whether in class, the workplace or in their personal lives.

Knowing that, a SUNY Cortland Campus Climate on Diversity Committee has begun asking students to express their opinion on the quality of college life for them with respect to four major themes: race; gender, gender expression or sexual orientation; dis(ability); and religion and spirituality.

The committee will hold the following focus group discussions to find out what the College can do to make members of the campus community feel more comfortable expressing their personal identity:

  • Gender/Gender Expression/Sexual Orientation — from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Monday, March 4.
  • Dis(Ability) — from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Monday, March 25.
  • Religion and Spirituality — from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Monday, April 1.

The events will take place in Old Main Colloquium. All are welcome. Refreshments will be served.

On Feb. 11, the committee held its first focus group on racial diversity. Some 20 of about 45 students, faculty and professional staff members who responded to a general campus invitation extended during Black History Month expressed their own experiences at SUNY Cortland in the context of race while members of the Campus Climate on Diversity Committee took note. The event, in Sperry Center, was titled “A Conversation on Race at SUNY Cortland.”   

The confidential questions that are asked at all these focus group meetings are meant to gather information to develop a survey of the campus community that will be conducted in the fall.  

Results will be shared with the College community and used to plan improvements in the way SUNY Cortland creates a more ideal environment for excellence in academics, professional development and personal fulfillment.

The College administration last looked at how well the campus provides a setting for diversity and accommodation of underrepresented groups with a Campus Climate Survey in 2005.

SUNY Cortland is committed to advancing diversity and inclusion in higher education. Building on previously gathered data, historical documents and SUNY Cortland’s extensive efforts thus far, a comprehensive climate assessment will provide the College with research-based and comprehensive findings. These will guide the development of strategic initiatives and action planning to build on institutional successes and address institutional climate challenges.

For more information, contact James Felton III, chief diversity officer or another member of the Campus Climate on Diversity Committee:Stephen Cunningham, director of institutional research and assessment; Amy Russell, academic tutor, Academic Support and Achievement Program; Brandon Manning, residence hall director, Residence Life and Housing; Christina Papaleo, residence hall director, Residence Life and Housing; Christopher Ortega, assistant professor of communication and media studies and Africana studies; Jennifer Wilson, associate director of communications; Jeremy Zhe-Heimerman, assistant director of disability resources, Disability Resources Office; Melanie Woodward, associate director of human resources and affirmative action officer; Michael Baker, interim assistant director of residential life for technology and marketing; Ronnie Silver’67, SUNY Cortland Alumni Association liaison; Yomee Lee, professor of kinesiology and Africana studies; and Jeffrey Jackson, instructor of English.